Article Title:Once Were Warriors meets The Rocky Horror Show
Author or Credit:Chris Banks
Published on:9th July 2003 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:83
Text:"Once Were Warriors meets The Rocky Horror Show" is a bold tagline for a show, even for internationally-renowned local king of cabaret Mika, whose new show Mika Haka starts a limited run in Auckland from this Saturday 12 July. Who on earth came up with such an outrageous description? "One of the dancers' aunties overheard two women talking in the toilets after our show in Adelaide," Mika explains. "And that's what they said!" Perhaps it's the beautifully surreal element in Mika's shows that prompt responses like this. He fuses elements of Maori and Pacific Island culture, gay culture, and high camp in a sometimes-confrontational mix. "My work has always been about smashing stereotypes, and rocking the boat in a positive way through entertainment," he says. "My earlier work focussed more on sexuality issues, but even then it wasn't about me being Danny LaRue or was me trying to find out where I fit in the Maori continuum, as a Maori man who is also gay." Mika's growing international reputation has allowed him access to a much larger budget for "Mika Haka" than any of his previous shows. "When I came back from Europe in late 2000, I decided to make a show to take back to Britain, because so many of our international producers were asking for something bigger." Some of these producers include US entertainment giants Disney and Cirque de Soleil, who were not looking for an exclusively Maori show in the traditional sense, but a large-scale production that encompassed Mika's unique vision and blending of cultures. "We basically had the international backing, but we've also had a lot of support from Industry New Zealand and other local sources," Mika says. "It's about being proactive, about realising that if you want access to funding you have to recognise this is a creative industry, which means creating art that sells." Mika and his Torotoro crew of 15 head straight to Edinburgh after the Auckland run of "Mika Haka", the first of several dates in the United Kingdom before heading for a 33-city tour of the United States.  It's a dream come true for the dancers, the oldest of whom is 21 and the youngest 16. How does Mika ensure his youthful troupe stay focussed on their performances and unrelenting work schedule? "Well, firstly, I have only chosen the best, the ones who I know have got the staying power," he explains. "The dancers in this show have all been training with me for a couple of years, and they were all the best students from courses I taught at AUT." The other key element is discipline. No smoking, no drugs, no alcohol. "I have to lead by example. The whole entertainment industry is a game, and I like to play it. But you have to play by the rules. And that means not letting yourself go." "These performers are taken round the world, big budgets, big sponsors, educated on the way and they're paid to do it. And most of them are around 18-19 years old. They know they're onto a good thing." Audiences outside of Auckland won't know just how much of a good thing "Mika Haka" is just yet. The commercial reality of the business means that New Zealand audiences, in general, aren't large enough to offset the costs of running the show, and demand from international promoters for Mika is high. "Where people book me I go. You've got to go where the work is, and it's very important, for the sake of the crew as well as myself, that we keep working." But, on the positive side, financial security from successful international touring will allow Mika and his troupe to return to New Zealand sometime next year for a nationwide tour. "All the money I make internationally comes back to New Zealand. New Zealand needs to get wealthier by sending arts overseas and bringing the money back here, and that's what I do." Chris Banks - 9th July 2003    
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